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UN International Day of Non Violence

The UN International Day of Non Violence is on October 2nd, to coincide with Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday. Gandhi was born on October 2nd, 1869, and this year, we will be commemorating his 146th birth anniversary. Non Violence is one of Asha’s key values, and I have been thinking a lot about it these days. During my 27 years at Asha, I have witnessed violence in many shapes and forms, from physical violence, to the violent effects of power structures oppressing and harassing the poor, systems, large and small, that incorporate prejudice and exploitation. I began to put to the test the philosophy of non violence from Asha’s very early beginnings, as I dealt with the oppressive and unjust systems on a daily basis.

The Asha communities have received great enlightenment and joy through the practice of non violence that has become a moral imperative, a way of life. It is a weapon available to all of us, and is a wonderful technique for resolving conflicts and achieving desired ends. The goal of non violence is not to defeat the opponents, but to win them over. This then does not alienate our opponents, and in fact, leaves open the possibility of conversion.

In my experience, we invite violence from opponents if they are humiliated or provoked. We are here to fight the antagonism, not the antagonist. Therefore personal sincerity in our interactions that foster trust, can break the cycle of violence and counter violence.

There can be the great temptation to self-righteousness and an unwillingness to see the other’s point of view. Efforts to try and understand the opponents’ motivations, and the lens with which they view the world can affirm their worth as well as their capacity for growth. This can also challenge them to examine their values and beliefs. This way, the oppressed and the oppressor are both liberated. A strong sense of the inherent dignity and worth of each individual brings us closer to an understanding of our shared humanity.

Non violence rejects passivity and submission, and is not an attempt to ignore or avoid conflict or oppression. In fact, it requires a great deal of courage and strength.

Gandhian non violence, termed ‘Satyagraha’, aims to attain the truth through love and right action. It demands the elimination of violence from the self, as well as from the social, political, and economic environment. The end result hoped for is a peaceful and just society.

In closing, for those who might be pessimistic about the ability of non violence to resolve conflicts, I ask, Have you tried? I have, hundreds in the Asha communities have, and it works beautifully. Would you like to consider celebrating October 2nd as Non Violence Day?

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On Non-Violence

Dear friends,

In the many encounters that I have had over the years with a wide variety of difficult individuals and networks, some of whom have been hostile, ruthless, or even violent, I have come to understand that evil is not final. It is not unchangeable, or irreversible. Active peacemaking breaks the cycle of violence and counter-violence. It leaves open the possibility of conversion. It is unlikely to alienate our opponents.

Non violence essentially means abstention from all forms of violence. This includes not just physical violence, but also verbal violence and violence of thought. There is a complete rejection of aggression and confrontation, of thought, of words and of actions. It is based on the conviction that forgiveness can change even an enemy into a friend. This is the central message of the gospel. Martin Luther King said,’ Nonviolence means avoiding not only external, physical violence, but also internal violence of the spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.’ Non violence therefore goes deeper than withholding from violent behaviour or words. It means caring in one’s heart for everyone, even those who are violent, or those with whom one strongly disagrees.

Non violence and peacemaking believe in the inherent worth of dialogue with opponents, in order to understand their motivations. In order to be heard by one’s opponents, one must also be prepared to listen. It also signifies respect for all human beings, created by a loving and forgiving God.

The technique of separating the deeds from the doers allows the possibility of the doers changing their behaviour, and perhaps their beliefs. When the goal is not to defeat the enemy, but to win them over, love and understanding can be created between all. Actively fostering goodwill can help us arrive at the outcome of persuasion and reconciliation. There is no room for coercion, humiliation or provocation.  Also, the better the opponent understands our position and our conduct, the less likely he is to resort to violence. 

Student's meet at IYC The greatest personal challenge posed is to practice non violence. This requires us to practice love and compassion at every opportunity.

Let us have truthful and tender encounters with all, and remember that non violence does not demonstrate weakness, but rather demonstrates courage, dignity, and strength.

With my best wishes.

Kiran Martin

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